In recent days, right-wing media figures and outlets have attempted to make hay over Clinton-era documents which they falsely claim demonstrate Elena Kagan's "willingness to manipulate medical science" for political purposes. In fact, Kagan did no such thing. The documents in question center around the drawn out debate concerning late-'90s legislation which would have banned, under most circumstances, so-called "partial birth" abortions. The Clinton administration's position was that the ban would be acceptable, provided there was a narrowly-drawn exception to preserve the health of the pregnant woman. The Clinton administration also endorsed a ban on late-term abortions that also had a narrowly-drawn health exception.
Kagan served as a legal advisor to Clinton at the time and was involved in providing policy recommendations to the administration on the issue.
The right has seized on several documents and memos related to the Clinton administration's talks with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) about an abortion procedure referred to as intact D&X (which ACOG determined was the likely target of the "partial birth" abortion proposals), and its necessity. In particular, they are highlighting a draft ACOG statement on pending legislation that would ban the procedure, in which the ACOG stated:
Terminating a pregnancy is indicated in some circumstances to save the life or preserve the health of the mother. Intact D&X is one of the methods available in some of these situations. However, a select panel convened by ACOG could identify no circumstances under which this procedure, as defined above, would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman. Notwithstanding this conclusion, ACOG strongly believes that decision about medical treatment must be made by the doctor, in consultation with the patient, based upon the woman's particular circumstances. The potential exists that legislation prohibiting specific medical practices, such as intact D&X, may outlaw techniques that are critical to the lives and health of American women. The intervention of legislative bodies into medical decision making is inappropriate, ill advised, and potentially dangerous.
In a December 14, 1996, memo, Kagan wrote that it would be a "disaster" if the ACOG issued this draft statement as its final statement. Kagan's files also include handwritten notes titled "suggested options," and those notes include language that mirrors ACOG's publicly released final statement on the "partial birth" abortion bill.
The right-wing blogs are screaming that this is evidence that Kagan interfered with "medical science" to advance the Clinton administration's politics. But Kagan did no such thing. ACOG's final statement is perfectly consistent with the draft statement and with ACOG's medical panel's assessment that it "could identify no circumstances under which this procedure, as defined above, would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman." Indeed, the panel's assessment was still included in ACOG's final statement on the issue.
And none of the right-wing media attacks have even plausibly suggested a way in which ACOG's draft statement and its final statement conflict.
Matt Drudge highlighted a post by the website KaganWatch.com that stated that Elena Kagan wrote "the Second Amendment ... enjoys 'strong, but not unlimited protection' " -- apparently to suggest that Kagan was hostile to gun rights. In fact, in a decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia striking down Washington D.C.'s handgun ban, the Supreme Court said that gun rights "are not unlimited."
Right-wing media have highlighted April's increase in unemployment to attack President Obama's economic policies. But the monthly increase in payrolls was the largest in four years, and the unemployment uptick reportedly occurred "mainly because 805,000 jobseekers -- perhaps feeling better about their prospects -- resumed their searches for work."
Conservative media have suggested that the Department of Homeland Security is to blame for alleged Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad boarding a plane. However, administration officials have stated the airline failed to review the updated no-fly list after Shahzad's addition, and that sending the passenger manifest to Customs and Border Protection successfully prevented Shahzad's escape.
Even after Mediaite retracted its claim that a link to a news story from The Drudge Report gives a story "credibility," it continued to claim that such a link conveys "significance" and makes the linked story worthy of further discussion. But many of the stories promoted by Drudge are entirely fabricated.
From The Drudge Report, accessed on April 28:
Numerous right-wing media figures have rushed to defend Arizona's controversial new immigration law, often by employing racially charged rhetoric, imagery, and stereotypes. Many have also embraced racial profiling while promoting the legislation.
Spurred by Matt Drudge, the right-wing commentariat is buzzing over President Obama's videotaped appeal to his supporters, in which he asks them to gear up for the 2010 midterms and help turn out the same voters who came out to vote in 2008:
In 2010, it will be up to each of you to ask folks like Claudia to stay involved, and to explain why, this year, the stakes are higher than ever. It will be up to each of you to make sure that the young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and women who powered our victory in 2008 stand together once again.
Because Obama used the words "African-American" and "Latino," Drudge put up the headline: "Obama plays race card: Rallies blacks, Latinos for '10 upset." Drudge's inflammatory headline was then picked up by the rest of the conservative echo chamber, from third-rate bloggers all the way up to Boss Limbaugh.
This is so dumb it hurts.
Following the announcement that the Security and Exchange Commission is investigating the investment firm Goldman Sachs for fraud, an April 19 FoxNews.com article reported that the "White House...strongly denied any involvement in the timing of the high-profile fraud case against Goldman Sachs," after Republicans and their media acolytes suggested the charges were timed to help pass financial reform. Fox News reported that "Republicans also accused the administration of biting the hand that fed it, since Goldman Sachs was President Obama's top Wall Street contributor during the 2008 campaign, with employees donating nearly $1 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics," and went on to quote Rep. John Boehner as asking "just whose side is President Obama on?" Pause for reaction. First of all, the SEC is a non-partisan body that is operating independent of the White House. Secondly, the accusation that the President is "biting the hand that fed it" makes absolutely no sense. Wouldn't the real scandal be if Obama interfered with a SEC investigation because the subject of the investigation was a large campaign contributor of his?
From The Drudge Report on March 29:
The Drudge Report is the latest to push the completely baseless smear that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) "sold" his health care vote for "airport grants," a claim Stupak has strongly denied. In fact, there is no evidence for this charge; indeed, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded grants in 47 states -- including one in Minority Leader John Boehner's district -- as part of a decades-old airport improvement program.
Right wing media figures have compared the passage of landmark health care reform legislation to historical events including the Black Plague, the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bloody Sunday, the passage of the Stamp Act, the federal government's refusal to bail out New York City in the 1970's, the Jonestown massacre, and The Day The Music Died.
From the January 20 edition of Fox and Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Yesterday, Eric Boehlert explained how a completely made-up claim that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) gave a floor speech on health care reform while drunk had bubbled up through the right-wing noise machine and was amplified by The Politico -- despite the fact that there was absolutely no evidence supporting the story.
Nothing in the video of Baucus suggested that he was drunk. As The Washington Independent's David Weigel wrote, "Baucus talks like this all the time. ... Baucus mumbles occasionally. OK, a lot. Accusing him of being drunk on the job, without evidence, is shameful, and I'm flabbergasted at the number of journalists who are doing it."
UPDATE: A spokesman for Baucus released the following statement: "When his friend of 30 years Ted Kennedy, with whom he had fought so hard to provide health care to children, was being used as a cheap foil to oppose health care reform, Senator Baucus gave a passionate defense. Unfortunately, those who want to kill any meaningful reform, turned it into an unfounded, untrue personal smear internet rumor. This is beyond the pale and this type of gutter politics has no place in the public sphere. It is this type of slander that makes Montanans, and Americans, disgusted with the politics as usual in Washington. And what is even more sad is that such a personal attack would be given any validity at all, let alone being elevated to the status of 'news'."
That should have put an end to the story. But not if you are Matt Drudge. Hours after Baucus' denial -- and days after it was clear the story was entirely baseless -- Drudge was still linking to the YouTube video of Baucus' speech and still featuring the following headline: "DRUNK WITH POWER? TOP DEM BAUCUS SLURS ON SENATE FLOOR..."
As MSNBC's David Shuster wrote on Twitter, Baucus "always speaks in a halting fashion. The wingnut claims are lies and disgusting smears. ... Baucus speech was at 430pm in the afternoon. He was incensed at [Sen. Roger] Wicker [R-MS]. He was emotional. To smear him, as drudge does, is repulsive."
Recently, the right-wing media have engaged in relentless attacks on President Obama and his administration and progressive organizations. Those attacks have repeatedly turned out to be based on demonstrably false claims -- such as the claim that Education Department official Kevin Jennings "cover[ed] up statutory rape."